January 3-5, 2007
| From Agadir, we drove to Ouarzazate.
The 375 KM (230 miles) took close to 7 hours so we didn't have much time
to explore the city. Ouarzazate is well known for it's movie studio. We
watched Gladiator and were able to recognize several of the shots from the
beginning of the movie. Neat!
The next day we drove to Zagora (163km, 101 miles, 3 hours). This is where the Sahara is supposed to start - but that's a lie. The only dunes there are man made and geared for tourists. So we continued to M'Hamid (70km, 45 miles, 2 hours) - which is truly the closest city to the Sahara. We stayed in the desert overnight, drove back to Ouarzazate. The pictures of the Sahara have their own page.
We had an interesting encounter (much like we did in Essaouira). As we drove to Zagora, in the middle of the mountains, someone flagged us down. We stopped and they explained that their car was broken and could we give Abdul a ride to the nearest town for a mechanic. The next village with a mechanic, Agdz, was about an hour away. We drove Abdul to the mechanic and then dropped him off at his uncle's shop. His uncle, Alozlellah, turned out to be a rug merchant. No, really, he's a rug merchant. As thanks, he treated us to Mint Tea. An hour later, he had: (a) put turbans on our heads (b) sold us two rugs (c) accepted 3 of our DVDs (as presents) (e) talked us into staying overnight in the Sahara at his "camp" with Abdul (who jumped at a chance to visit family) to see the sunset and the sunrise and (f) come back the next day to stay with him overnight and then drive to various Berber old towns in the Draa Valley.
I learned a lot from this man. Alozlellah spends three months a year in a 150 camel caravan with 35 members of his family - although our interaction was disconcerting the entire time. We couldn't discern when he was being genuinely friendly and when he was "trying to win us over for business." I always was on guard - "what is going to sell to me next?" I think Alozhellah summed it up well when he said "business just strengthens friendship but it should never get in the way of friendships." How Chinese! We learned much about his views of what is going on in Morocco, the Berbers, what is important in the Moroccan culture, etc. See bottom of page for summary.
Feel free to right click and "Save As..." pictures you especially like for personal use. For the high resolution original, email me at logrus101 at yahoo dot com. We humbly ask for credit. If you are linking to these or using them for non-personal use, ask permission at the same email address. ^_^
|It takes us ~ 12 hrs to drive 375 miles (600km) - for an average
of 31 mph (50km/h). There are many reasons for this:
The towers in this shot indicate that we are entering one of the provinces.
Since there are very few roads, it is very easy to navigate. It is hard to get lost when there are no paved turns for 100 miles!
|... breathtaking views...
We cross those tall mountains on the way to Marrakech
|Sometimes we had to stop for odd reasons. In this case, because
a river had washed out the road the previous year.
Note: the signs were usually in Arabic and French
|Another hill with writing. It says "Alah","the King" and "Welcome"
The word "Welcome" is very important and often used. Every time we tell people we come from Canada or US or... they say "Welcome".
Note the stack of rocks on the left of the picture by the road side. Stacks of rocks painted white symbolize "Welcome". We see many of those stacks on the road.
Note the building at the top-this is a Kasbah-- a fortified house for the local leader/tribeman. The Kasbah is a Berber tradition.
|In the mountains, when the snow melts, the water damages the roads and the bridges
This is the only bridge we see in the mountain and it isn't repaired. We see some bridges to cross rivers - they are all very low and quite narrow. It seems that bridge building is difficult/ expensive.
|One lane road with switchbacks and no guardrails. Pretty red/pink rock (which many houses are made of).|
|Another amazing shot of our one lane road. You can see the road continuing all the way to the end of the shot.
Note the Acacia trees! They are quite similar in architecture to the ones in Kenya but are much smaller/ shorter.
|Shot taken in the car (as we were driving). Don't look down....|
|The black Mercedes had run right into the mountain face. The
curves were very very tight and many Moroccan men like to prove their machismo
by going as fast as possible.
The yellow car is a taxi. Finding cops or other people to help on the mountain road is very difficult apparently.
|Breaking the monotony, we spot various towers ...|
|... or Kasbahs...|
|... and sometimes beautiful villages perched in the mountain ....|
|We even ran into Tatooine (hrr- really Taliouine).... It's no wonder parts of Star Wars were filmed in Tunisia.|
|... when we finally arrive in Ouarzazate, we are greeted with a nice sunset over the Kasbah.|
|... and a very nice sunrise the next morning.|
|We have a great dinner at the Restaurant Relais Saint-Exupéry
(of the Little Prince fame). In fact, I would go further and say that
this was our favorite restaurant in Morocco
The pumpkin soup was quite good. Justin has been trying to reproduce since we've been back. Note the Little Prince drawing on the dish.
|In Ouarzazate, we visit an internet cafe ($1 per hour). This poor router & switch is driving over 15 desktops.|
|... desktops so old (and this was one of the newest ones!) that cabling probably didn't make any difference :). This was one large difference between Morocco and Thailand (click to see picture of PS2 parlor).
For non-geeks, this computer is probably 7 years old (Pentium III were introduced in 1999).
|After we had picked up Abdul, we drove through Agdz. We ran into a protest and the road was blocked. They must have learned that technique from the French (here) and (here)!
We learned that this had been going on for two days. College students are protesting that the government does not pay for transportation to the university for [mostly Berber] students living in Ouarzazate but does pay for [mostly Arab] students in cities such as Fez. The situation was resolved while we were still in the town, although we didn't get all the details.
|Shot from our car as we are driving around the protest in the sand ....|
|Abdul by his cousins's store.|
|Our new friend after putting turban and cloak on me.|
|Justin & I together (our only picture of us together from this trip)|
|We heard a lot about Morocco from our friend. He told us quite a few things - such as:
We did come back with two great rugs. We did some research and found that we got great prices. So if you go to Morroco, be sure to check out:
|This is a movie of Justin's head being wrapped. You can get a taste of the French accent.|